Combatting Epilepsy with Probiotics

Combatting Epilepsy with Probiotics

Combatting Epilepsy with Probiotics

Canine idiopathic epilepsy (IE) is a prevalent neurological condition affecting many dogs, particularly purebreds and males. Traditional treatments often involve antiepileptic drugs (AEDs), but they are not always effective for all dogs. Recent research has begun to explore the potential of probiotics in managing epilepsy, offering hope for improved outcomes and longevity for affected dogs. Let’s look into how probiotics might help, the findings of the latest study, and their impact on dog health and longevity:

What is Idiopathic Epilepsy (IE):

Idiopathic epilepsy is characterized by recurrent seizures with no identifiable cause. It is more commonly diagnosed in purebred dogs and male dogs. Traditional treatment primarily involves AEDs, but approximately 30% of dogs are resistant to these medications, leading to a need for alternative therapies.

Probiotics and the Gut-Brain Axis:

Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that support a healthy gut microbiome, which is increasingly understood to play a role in neurological health through the gut-brain axis. In humans, probiotics have been shown to decrease seizure frequency and severity. Researchers are now exploring similar effects in dogs with IE.

Recent Study on Probiotics and IE:

Dr. Zoe Bailey of the University of Wisconsin-Madison conducted a study to investigate the impact of probiotics on dogs with IE already receiving AED treatment. The study used Visbiome Vet, a specific probiotic, and involved 42 client-owned dogs over a period from January 2022 to May 2023. The study followed a placebo-controlled, masked, crossover design with four phases, including an observational period, a placebo phase, a probiotic phase, and a final observational phase.

Key Findings:

  1. Seizure Frequency:
    • Observational Phase (Phase 1): Average of 8.3 seizures per month.
    • Placebo Phase (Phase 2): Average of 8.1 seizures per month.
    • Probiotic Phase (Phase 3): Average of 6.5 seizures per month.
  2. Challenges: The study faced limitations such as a small sample size and reliance on owner-reported seizure logs, which affected the statistical significance of the results.

Impact on Longevity:

While the reduction in seizure frequency with probiotics was not statistically significant, the trend suggests potential benefits. Managing seizures more effectively can improve a dog’s quality of life, reduce stress, and potentially extend their lifespan by minimizing the harmful effects of frequent seizures.

Future Directions:

Dr. Bailey emphasized the need for further research with larger sample sizes and more precise seizure monitoring methods. Ongoing studies aim to evaluate the changes in the microbiome of dogs with IE and how these changes might influence their condition.


Probiotics offer a promising supplementary approach to managing idiopathic epilepsy in dogs. While current research is still in the early stages, the potential benefits on seizure frequency and overall health are encouraging. Pet owners should consult their veterinarians about incorporating probiotics into their dog's treatment plan, especially for those dogs that are resistant to traditional AEDs. As research continues, probiotics may become a valuable tool in enhancing the quality of life and longevity of dogs with epilepsy.